Wisconsin could be the first state in the nation to license teachers without a bachelor's degree under a measure Republican lawmakers added to the state budget.
A review by one of the state Legislature's attorneys found no other state had a law like the one Wisconsin is considering, which would let anyone with relevant experience teach non-core academic subjects in grades six through 12, whether they have a degree or not.
Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Verona, said that disrespects teachers.
"Just because I know how to do a little electrical work does not make me an electrician, and just because I know something doesn't mean I know how to teach it," Pope said.
Speaking on Wisconsin Public Radio's "The Joy Cardin Show," Wisconsin Education Association Council President Betsy Kippers echoed that sentiment.
"I think to automatically make somebody a licensed teacher is not going to get us the high-quality teachers we want," said Kippers. "We forget that there's more than just having a knowledge base of a specific subject area. Teachers also need to know how to teach, and there’s so much tied to that."
But Republican lawmakers said the measure is aimed at filling teaching jobs in rural school districts.
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Asked about the plan Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker would not say where he stood.
"That's something we're not prepared to make an announcement on one way or the other. We'll take some time for us to look at that," Walker said.
The governor called for a separate set of changes to teacher licensure in his budget proposal.
Republican state Sen. Paul Farrow told WPR he thinks the discussion about teacher licenses is a timely one and he supports giving school districts more flexibility to allow them to choose from a larger pool of qualified teachers.
"We looked to see if we could streamline that process so that we can get these individuals who are engaged, who have the capabilities and the wherewithal to get in the classroom to teach," Farrow said.
But he added that he originally advocated for a probationary license for those without a bachelor's degree and said talks on the final legislation are ongoing. It still needs to pass the full Legislature.
Scottie Lee Meyers contributed reporting to this story.